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Parenting Young Adults (18-26) Community
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Avatar universal

How hard should you talk to your teens/young adult kids?

I have a niece who was raised by my single-mother sister and got out of control when she was 16. Now she is 20 and she hasn't started to make sense yet. She hasn't even finished High School even though she was academically smart.

This is all part of growing up neurobiologically and socially, but even though some of that craze runs in my family, she has been showing patterns of behavior that are very wrong (such as selling drugs in school (for which she was repeatedly expelled) and mugging lonely elderly people with a gang of other troubled teen kids in order to get money for drugs (they would even choose those that look immigrant knowing they were not likely to report the crime ...)), which I find morally despicable (especially the abusive aspect of it) even if in my own child.

Everything and everyone who doesn't fit well her twisted understanding of reality is stupid, idiotic, clueless, ... even if they are her own family and were her best friends hours before. She says she loves her grandmothers but does she realize she was mugging someone else's grandma?

The police came home looking for her, for various reasons (mostly misdemeanors), but she moved to another state and now my sister is stuck with paying the fine since she bailed her out of detention. When you ask her who will pay the fine she starts with her thing about the legal system, in fact, the whole Universe being stupid ... Hours after police came looking for her, my sister received a call from a stranger asking us about her and asking us if she knew that was a dangerous neighborhood and that she was putting herself in harm's way ... That lady took her (and her dogs) off the streets temporarily and asked her for her fam. She would not complain about us ... (Why don't you go home then?)

She called us when she found out that lady had spoken to us (she is very manipulative and knows well how to talk a line, in fact most people realize she is a "smart" and articulate young woman) and told us "those rich people are 'naive' and 'nice'", that "they don't mind giving out money" ... How offensive, crazy and disrespectful, great Lord!

All my sister does is crying, loosing her sleep, pray and hope nothing really bad will happen to her. I think someone will have to talk straight sh!t to her face, before it is too late.

As a teacher I constantly see that pattern. Kids who got disconnected from reality and then "resurface" in their late 30's trying to finish high school and make sense of their lives after serving time and/or becoming parents ...

What would you suggest?
4 Responses
134578 tn?1602101550
Well. short of sending her to jail to talk to inmates, it doesn't sound like anything will get through to her.  Your sister wringing her hands is not a productive approach, but there isn't much that can be done when someone is as determined to destroy herself as this kid.  I assume she has had access to counseling in the past (not you or your sister but a professional) and has blown it off?  

Probably if this were my niece, I would say to her -- "You're killing your mom.  Here is my last try," and give her some lifeline like counseling that you pay for X sessions of, and if she does not agree to take it up, the offer is withdrawn and you'll watch for her obituary or arrest in the paper.  It sounds cruel or like you are saying you wash your hands of her, but it would not be mean if you keep it clear with her that you are saying it with the intent of waking her up to the seriousness of her situation.
Avatar universal
> Your sister wringing her hands is not a productive approach

It isn't exactly like that. My niece has even challenged her mother to fight her physically, but at some point it breaks your heart/totally debases you morally having to fight your own baby. It is more than enough having stopped living your own life for two decades in order to dedicate yourself to raising your kids as a single mom without any support whatsoever from their father (another of my niece's themes) and then see your kids actively sabotaging their lives.

My sister even had what seemed to be warning signs of a heart attack (both her arms getting stiff at once) when she got that call from a stranger, that is why she handed the phone to me.

> when someone is as determined to destroy herself as this kid

This is how we see it. Kids don't see it like that. They say (apparently believing it) the most preposterous bs backing it up just with their plenty of hormonally-based (feral?) emotions and/or simply because another "friend" told them so.

My niece's theme when she started wasting her youth was that she was "making a movie about 'traveling'" ("with her friends") ... How does she finance her movie-making career? Well, she stands in places (even at the entrance of supermarkets where everybody knows her/her mother) with a sign saying "she is homeless" ...  (and not only doesn't she seem to see anything wrong with that, but she sees it as "making money")

My nephew (her brother), even though he isn't that smart either, at least listens to what you tell him (at the very least he did finish high school). Each time he showed interest about a topic I bought him a good book (which I had read myself hoping to engage him in a conversation (one of the books was Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist", I was trying to have a conversation with him about "walking with your mind vs. walking with 'your feet'")) or told him I would finance his interests to learn about computers in order to get him anchor himself into some topic leading to some kind of professional development instead of wasting his youth being "cool", with "friends", ...

I remember he once told me: "I have a friend who is very smart. He does computers, rents a very expensive apartment downtown, ran into some problem with the FBI, dropped his router into the Miami river and flew to Thailand" ... I wouldn't even know how to begin to parse the nonsense out of that sentence (I am a scientist/technical person myself). The funny thing is that they say that as if it made lots of sense and that was that. I was trying to talk sense into him telling him it was his responsibility to make her notice and let us know when his sister was putting herself in harm's way and he would simply (even "logically"?) ask you (as if making fun of you) "why is she putting herself in harm's way?"

I talked about this with a priest who is a good friend of mine and he confided to me his own daughter told him once she wanted to be a "trophy wife". You would laugh your head off if you knew him. From where do kids get that [email protected] into their minds?!?!?!? OK, part of it is TV, their "social networks", their "friends" ... but of course they also -freely- choose to believe/articulate in their minds such [email protected] ...

Nowadays if, say, kids have three hours to play baseball they play 1 hour (for the cameras!) and the rest of the time they spend editing and posting the videos in their "social networks" and flattering each other ...

> I assume she has had access to counseling in the past (not you or your sister but a professional) and has blown it off?

My niece would shun and/or lie to the therapist (of course they notice that), manipulate the conversation ...

> "Here is my last try" ...

You are never quite "done" with your family.

I had the same kinds of problems with my own son even though not to that extent and with the difference that my son would actually argue with me. I used to repeat to him that "you must craft your own angel (on your own)". He started changing by himself at some point, finished high school and is right now halfway through University (as a teacher!). One day he told me: "Dad, now I realize what you meant" (about "my angel"). His aunt (my sister) has asked him about those times and what made him changed, but he doesn't even want to talk "about 'that'"

Thank you very much,
López
Avatar universal
Let me also point out that, even if very minimally and not that "logically",  I could see why she would "rebel" and react like that as part of "searching for her own identity" (as they say).

It may be my educational bias and my mother and aunt have told me they don't agree with me, that whatever you do they will at some point play "their own cards", I would have emphasized more structured educational involvement, rigor and guidance (school is not enough). They were never really into it. They would see everything just as a way of "making money". I think they were too feral (just playing/being with their friends/watching all those stupid illusions they entertain on TV ...) and my sister kind of expected for them to "see the light" (realize those were just stupid illusions) and "find their way" on their own (which hasn't happened and I have grown doubtful it ever will) since all she was giving was love and care.

There is, however, no criminal behavior of any kind she has learned from her family and even though "she may have wanted stuff" (we are working/artists/musicians/"intellectual" people), we have provided her with a loving and safe environment and most of "the stuff" she wanted.

What I find most hurtful is that she had ways to do on her own whatever she wanted in an intelligent way as she has seen her own cousins do.

L
Avatar universal
This may be too late to respond but I thought I would throw in my thoughts.  I have read all your comments about the situation and I can't help but feel a heartache for your sister and you.  I'm sure your sister has loved her daughter and done the best she knew how to do raising her children by herself.  I'm guessing part of the problem is the feelings your niece has about not having a father but I suppose that doesn't matter at this point.  I'm guessing the safest thing for your niece is to go to jail.  At least there your sister will know where she is and she will be safe.  I'm guessing your niece is using drugs of some sort because she has the "criminal thinking" as drug addicts usually do.  I hate to think that jail is the safest place but in cases like this it usually is.  She might be able to get a psych. eval in jail.  I would suggest however possible for your sister to work with police to find her.  I'm sure your sister's heart is breaking or broken over this but it could be a little better knowing she is safe.  I know this may sound horrible and not make any sense but I have seen where jail has helped in situations like this.  I am sorry you and your family have to go through this.  
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